In addition to all the work stuff I have been doing recently – about 45% overtime on the project I’m on loan to – and helping out at Kids Against Hunger, I have something new to add to my resume.  Public speaking.

My minister is out of town today, and asked me to fill in and do the Sunday sermon.  He suggested I focus on Kids Against Hunger, which I did.

Here’s my text.  I deviated from it a little bit, so this is the “as designed”, not the “as built” blueprints.

Hi!

I’m here to talk about Kids Against Hunger. And I’m going to take you up the mountain – convincing you that Kids Against Hunger is the best thing in the world – and then I’m going to take you down the other side and explain why that’s not so.

I have a theory that you can illustrate many things with humor. So here’s a joke about hunger. A man goes into a restaurant and orders a bowl of soup. When he gets the bowl of soup, there’s a fly in it. He calls the waiter over. “Waiter, what’s this fly doing in my soup?” “It appears that he’s doing the backstroke.”

I’m sorry. That’s the wrong joke. Let’s try this one: same situation, fly in the soup. The waiter comes back and says “Don’t worry – he’s not going to drink too much.”

But even that joke is not about hunger. The imaginary man in those jokes has money to go out to a restaurant. There is a restaurant to go out to. And the restaurant has food. Real hunger is not a laughing matter. When children go for days without food, when there is no food for them to get, and no money for them to even try to buy food – that’s when real hunger hits. Every day, thirty thousand children die of hunger. Thirty thousand. Let’s bring the numbers down. Every hour, that’s over twelve hundred children, dying. Every minute, that’s twenty children. That means that a child dies from hunger

every

three

seconds.

These deaths are mostly in places like Haiti and Africa, places where there are problems with getting food no matter how much money you have. But there are kids going hungry here in the United States, too. So somebody decided to do something about it. They came up with this formulation of nutritional powder, veggies, soy, and rice that will keep a person alive. It’s put into bags like this, six meals to a bag, boxed up, loaded onto skids, and shipped to places where they need it. And they do need it. In Haiti, where a lot of the food goes, they don’t make jokes about eating. There are no restaurants and no waiters, no soup to buy, and no money to buy it with. What they have is donated clothes, and the ground they walk on.

And when you’re starving, starving to death, you are willing to eat that dirt. We have all made mud pies on rainy days. And I’m sure we have tried eating them. Once. But in Haiti, they make what they call “cookies” out of yellow mud, and river water, and a little bit of vegetable oil. They dry it in the sun and then sell them in the markets. This mud is where people have walked, has animal waste, and is generally not a good thing. But if you’re starving, anything is better than nothing. It fills their bellies, which stops the hunger, even if it’s not the right thing. And that’s where Kids Against Hunger intercedes.

Their goal is to eliminate hunger, in the US, Haiti, and around the world. It is not a government program. There are no federal,state, or city funds involved. Instead, all the money is donated – it is a gift. It costs twenty-five cents for a meal, from ingredients to shipping. A quarter. Some people have signed up to provide food for a child at ten bucks a month. This isn’t a specific child – you’re not going to get a picture of little Alphonse or Marie. You are giving to support A child.

Oh, I couldn’t do that, you might say. Too late. I haven’t signed you up to donate, but when you bring your tithes and offerings into this church, you are supporting Kids Against Hunger. Here at Connections, we are a mission-minded church. Ten percent of everything that comes in goes to missions. That’s right – out of every dollar in the offering plate, a dime goes to missions. And out of every dollar that goes to missions, Kids Against Hunger gets a dime. Right now, our tithes and offerings are running about fourteen thousand a month. Feel free to prove me wrong and make it twenty! Out of that fourteen thousand that comes in now, fourteen hundred goes to missions. And that means that a hundred and forty goes to Kids Against Hunger. And at ten dollars a child, our church is keeping fourteen kids from starving every month. Right now, without any extra effort.

If you want to help more, that is fine. Today I chose to keep the offering in its regular position in the service. I don’t want to guilt you into giving. The Lord loves a cheerful giver – and that’s not smiling with gritted teeth. I have the offering plates beside the exit doors if you want to drop something in as you leave. If you want to do something more, you can go the the Kids Against Hunger web site, Hunger No More dot US, or you can give through our church’s web site, or you can give money to me and I’ll get it there.

What I want to make sure you understand is that any donations are good and are appreciated. Kids Against Hunger is a Christian organization that will feed any hungry person, regardless of their faith. But donating to them should not replace your tithes and offerings that come into here, into Connections. Malachi 3:8-10 says

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

That seems pretty clear, don’t you think?

So is Kids Against Hunger a good charity, worthy of being involved in? Yes, it is. The man who runs the local branch, Larry Bergeron, is a Christian and shares his faith with every group that comes through. They give out food to everyone who is hungry, and they do it in the name of Jesus.

And those groups that come through the factory, as our church has done on many occasions? They are – WE are – volunteers who pack this food. They could have automated everything, running it like machinery, but they decided to get people involved, hands-on. There are school groups, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, American Heritage Girls, college groups, young and old, first-timers and experienced people. Everyone is welcome.

One of the things that hit me hard about this is how direct the connection is. When you put a scoop of rice into the bag, that rice will go to a person who is starving, a boy or girl who may not have eaten for days. That is as close as I’m going to come to a person who is starving, unless I go to Haiti and deliver the food myself. And that sort of a mission trip might be possible somewhere down the road. What a blessing that would be to be able to pack the food, ship the food, deliver the food, and eat the food with them. It’s not about our experience and the pictures we’d take. It’s about putting God’s love into action. Showing people that you care. It’s putting a face on what they need to survive.

And is it enjoyable to help? Yes, it is. How many people have been to a packing session at Kids Against Hunger, any of their locations? Keep your hands up and look around. By my count, that’s about half the people here. The most recent time we went as a church was about five weeks ago. They did a Million Meal Marathon, where they packed over a million means in just four days, and we were a part of that. If you want to see some pictures from that, some before-and-after pictures of what the place looked like, let me know.

Kids Against Hunger, helping starving children around the world. Now isn’t that just the greatest thing on the whole earth? Thanks for asking. The answer is no.

We have reached the top of that mountain and we are starting down the other side. Kids Against Hunger won’t last. It’s a good charity, doing good work, and I hope it does last, but it won’t be around forever. The whole organization was started in 1999. It has been in Cincinnati for about five years. It is going strong, but at some point in the future it will close as a national organization. The children that are being fed won’t live forever. Whether they die from old age – and in Haiti, that’s just over sixty – or if they die from starvation a year from now, they are going to die. Hebrews 9:27 says

it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment

The judgment – will that be a judgment on whether or not their bellies were full? No, it won’t. They will be judged on whether they accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. That brings up the question – shouldn’t we be evangelizing them instead of sending them food? No, I don’t think so. Think of yourself, right now. You probably had a good breakfast, and are planning on a good lunch. But if I am speaking something that God laid on my heart – and I am – and I speak until two o’clock – and I’m not – then how many people will still be here to hear the benediction and tell me how good my preaching was? Ummmm, I think Bettie would still be here. Some others out of politeness. And maybe Samson, who is a voice of truth, would say what everybody else is thinking – “I’m hungry!”.

And that’s only being two hours late for a meal at Red Lobster after having a good breakfast this morning. Imagine being a child in Haiti, an orphan, who has not eaten in days. No food around – nobody to provide it. It’s no wonder that they eat dirt. It’s something in their bellies, even if it’s not good for them. That’s the thoughts on food from the perspective of the children. And what about us, living in the land of plenty? Let’s hear from Jesus, in Matthew 25:31-46:

But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’
“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Wow. Straight from Jesus’ mouth – when we feed the hungry of the least of these, we are doing it to the King. And yet the unrighteous are mentioned in there. The King separated the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left. The unbelievers will go away into eternal punishment. They will go to Hell. They will suffer forever, apart from God, because they were spiritually empty, spiritually hungry. They ate their own version of those mud cookies along the way, something to fill the void where God should be. They would strive for power, or hang onto things, or use God-given desires in the wrong way. They would edge God out, instead of Exalting God Only.

I’m not judging. I’m reporting what Jesus said – there will be some who will not make it into Heaven. And we, who have the truth, the spiritual food, what are we doing about it? Are we getting the spiritual food to them in a way that they can eat it? Are we getting off our seats and out of our comfort zones and sharing the good news, so they won’t die a spiritual death?

Our church is reading a devotional this year, about God’s Story. Let me tell you a story about Steve.

I used to work with a couple guys, both named John. Good guys, but not Christians. They worked together in the New York area before their jobs moved them out here. One of the traditions they brought with them was going out for seafood on Good Friday. It was their one observance of God in their lives, such as it was. And I was invited, and probably went out for seafood for 18 or 20 of these “Fish Days”. John and John had both retired, but we’d still get together with our wives for a meal and catching up. We did it last Good Friday, but we’re not doing it this year. My friends both died since last Easter.

And I’m afraid they’re not in Heaven. I would pray for our meals, but I never took the initiative to talk to them about Christianity. It’s too late now. All I can do, coming down off that mountain, is to fall on my knees at the foot of the cross and ask forgiveness. And receive it, for God is a merciful God. And then, through His power, to distribute that spiritual food through the gospel, and distribute physical food through the things like the peanut butter drive, the food pantry, and Kids Against Hunger.

The church’s purpose statement starts off “Connecting”. Connecting people to a loving God and each other through a relationship with Jesus Christ. That connection comes through you and me. It’s coming at the workplace, over the backyard fence, and at Kids Against Hunger. But why? Why are we doing it, and why should we do it? It’s like Jeff said last week: “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name”. God is Lord of all, and all these blessings, both spiritual and physical, flow out from Him. He is the starting point for everything.

Let’s pray.

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